Native American Heritage Month is celebrated from November 1 to November 30, and a great way to introduce the children in your life to the rich variety of tribes in our country and on whose lands all of us live is to read books that celebrate the history, customs, traditions, food, clothing, and lives of First Nation people.
While no list can include every children’s book on a particular subject, here are nine you can read to start your celebrations and understanding of Native American Heritage Month.
9 Native American Heritage Books for Kids
Explore Native American Cultures!: With 25 Great Projects (Explore Your World), was written by Anita Yasuda and illustrated by Jennifer K Keller for readers ages 4 through 10. Readers are introduced to seven main Native American cultural regions and they get to investigate daily activities, including rituals, beliefs, and traditions and clothing, shelter, food, tools, and technology. Readers can make a corn meal painting, build a longhouse, and learn Native American sign language.
Indigenous Firsts: A History of Native American Achievements and Events (The Multicultural History & Heroes Collection) by Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, and Paulette F. Molin, is the longest tome on this list, but filled with rich details of people’s lives and accomplishments and events that changes history. This 400+ page book covers more than 2000 people’s accomplishments, including Medal of Honor recipients, Heisman Trophy recipients, U.S. Olympians, a U.S. Vice President, NASA astronauts, Pulitzer Price recipients, Oscar winners, U.S. Poet Laureates, and more. For children in middle and high school and for adults.
Native American Homes: From Longhouses to Wigwams (Native American Cultures), by P. V. Knight, is for children ages 7 through 10. Using photographs and illustrations, this book richly captures traditional housing of native peoples, housing that was made from grass, wood, and adobe bricks as well as animal hides and dwellings inside of rock faces.
Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past and Present by Adrienne Keene and Ciana Sara is “An accessible and educational illustrated book profiling 50 notable American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian people, from NBA star Kyrie Irving of the Standing Rock Lakota to Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.” For young adults.
Journey of the Freckled Indian: A Tlingit Culture Story, by Alyssa K London and Monica Rickert-Bolter is for children ages 4 to 7. As the author writes on Amazon, “The Journey of the Freckled Indian children’s book pushes boundaries because it engages in the conversation of what it means to be Tlingit, Alaska Native and Native American in today’s world. The concept of identity is very multi-faceted, and is not necessarily defined by skin color or blood quantum, but by family heritage and a person’s involvement in their community. This first Freckled Indian children’s book helps introduce children to the topic of identity as it pertains to who they are and where they come from, which is very important in constructing a sense of self-confidence. The book will also allow parents to start a conversation with their children about how the outside world may not always see them for who they are, nevertheless they must stand proud and draw that strength from inside themselves.”
Native American Stories for Kids: 12 Traditional Stories from Indigenous Tribes Across North America by Tom Pecore Weso and for kids ages 6 to 9 includes tales from 12 tribes and explores how Denali (the mountain) was formed, why the North Star stays still in the sky, and more. Every story ends with a brief history of the tribe to provide context.
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal is for ages 2-6. This book, told in lively verse, won the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and was a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner.
Keepunumuk: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story, by Danielle Greendeer and Anthony Perry, is for children ages 3-7. The Wampanoag tribe was whose land on which the first Pilgrims settled, and it is because of them that the Pilgrims survived that first winter. This book tells the history and tradition of the first Thanksgiving from an inclusive point of view.
We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade is the winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal and was inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption. The book is for children ages 2 to 8. It’s a stellar book to encourage your child’s interest in the waters and in sustainability—which is another way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.
Reading with children is so important to their growth and understanding of the world. After all, as Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more than you read, the more things you will know. The more than you learn. The more places you’ll go.” And that’s what we want for our children during Native American Heritage month and every month.